Blue Line Excuses for the Insurrection

If John Catanzara’s views are representative of sentiment within American law enforcement, that institution is gradually pushing us into an American equivalent of the Third Reich.

The president of Chicago’s largest police union defended the actions of a mob of Pro-Trump rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol—an incident that resulted in four deaths on Wednesday.

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and a Trump supporter, defended the rioters in an interview Wednesday by saying “there was very little destruction of property.”

“There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property,” Catanzara told the radio station WBEZ in a Wednesday evening phone interview. “It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way.”

Those claims are the twenty-first century American equivalent of excuse-making for the Beer Hall Putsch, and from pretty high up within the law enforcement establishment. It’s hard to know how representative or widespread Catanzara’s view is, but this Newsweek article is not the first time I’ve encountered it. It’s making the rounds within law enforcement circles. Continue reading

It Just Happened Here

For thirty years, I’ve heard conservatives lecture everyone else about the supposed “lessons” of Munich, Neville Chamberlain, and appeasement, all in order to rationalize endless warfare against “threats” abroad. Every time they want to start a war, they roll out their canned lectures on Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich, the one-size-fits-all analogy that justifies any brutality from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf. In fact, all they’ve managed to accomplish is perpetual war abroad, and fascist sedition at home. (Paul Krugman’s columns on this topic have been both prescient and explanatory.)

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Wal-Mart and Mask Mandates: The Empirical Issues

This gallery is meant to illustrate the issues raised in my discussion with Michael Young over Wal Mart in the post on the Great Barrington Declaration. See the combox of that post for further details. Click the thumbnails of each photo for important empirical findings.

Value for Value: Helping Out Roderick Long

I’m a little late to the party with this, but better late than never. My friend and fellow PoT blogger Roderick Long has set up a GoFundMe for help with expenses during a particularly difficult time. I’ve cut and pasted the blurb for his GoFundMe page below, and cut and pasted a comment I wrote responding to it in the combox below. I’m elated to see that Roderick  has exceeded his initial $8,000 goal, but see no reason to stop simply for that reason. I was also extremely pleased to see some of my Felician colleagues, like Sherida Yoder, who know Roderick only through PoT or my Facebook posts, kicking in to help. By the by, I’d love to overhear a literary conversation between Roderick and Sherida. Some day, we should all get together and party like it’s 2099.

But for now. please just give what you can. We’ll set up a separate GoFundMe for the Blowout Party for Friends of Roderick Long at a later date, when we’re all rich and famous. Continue reading

“The Useful Libertarian Idiocy of the Great Barrington Declaration”

Will Wilkinson is the most talented, insightful, and (incidentally) successful writer of the cohort of libertarians to which I once half-belonged back in the 1990s, when I was (sporadically) associated with David Kelley’s Institute for Objectivist Studies and the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. His apostasizing critiques of libertarianism are among the best of their kind. He’s been derided as a mere “centrist,” but that often seems, in libertarian circles, a convenient way of attacking someone whose political views accommodate the actual constraints that arise in political life.

His criticisms in this piece of the so-called Great Barrington Declaration strike me as spot on. And the acid tone he takes is perfectly appropriate to the subject matter. Libertarians will undoubtedly attack him, and try their best to drag some red herrings across the ground, but once the dust clears, I think they’ll be left with a sober reckoning—one they should have made last March, but have yet to make. 

I started a conversation on Will’s piece on my Facebook page, but thought I’d put it here to encourage wider participation (including, perhaps, Will’s). The piece was actually published in late October; I just happened to encounter it a few days ago.

The Great Barrington Declaration itself.

The Pfizer-Biontech Vaccine: Firstcomers and Latecomers

In a paper I’ve mentioned here before, Pierre LeMorvan and Barbara Stock discuss a moral dilemma that arises from the ubiquity, in health care, of what they call “the medical learning curve.” The idea is that neophyte health care workers face a learning curve that puts patients at risk: the earlier I am in my career as a health care worker, the less skilled and knowledgeable I’m apt to be, and the more prone to error. The more error-prone I am, the more likely to impose medically dangerous risks on patients. Since health care workers need to practice their knowledge and skills on patients in order to achieve proficiency, this situation is ineliminable, even with the best supervision by more experienced practitioners. Continue reading

Hi, and Welcome to Your Den of Thieves Experience!

The New York Times article linked below exemplifies a general pattern that’s played out since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. The pandemic began, and started taking a terrible toll on many people rendered helpless by circumstances beyond their control. Calls for leniency were reasonably enough made to prevent such people from being swallowed alive by those circumstances–eviction halts, rent freezes, mortgage forbearance, changes to grading policies, diminished scrutiny on unemployment and insurance claims, and so on. But that leniency has brought with it huge amounts of moral hazard and other sorts of imprudence and dishonesty, incentivizing almost unimaginable levels of fraud, near fraud, and quasi-fraudulent but morally dubious claims. Until you look, or are personally affected, you’d be amazed by how many people are trying their hardest to exploit the chaos of the moment, or to exploit the noble intentions of this or that benefactor–always easiest when the benefactor has deep pockets, or appears to.

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Carol Welsh: Redefining “Heroic”

My long-time friend Carol Welsh is re-defining the concept of “heroic” later today (I’m writing at 1 am) as she fights a brain tumor growing into her spine. I’ve visited for just three of Carol’s surgeries (the three brain surgeries), but could not be there for the gamma knife surgery, the chemo, the radiation, the respiratory arrests, or the spinal surgeries. Her sisters, her mom, her nearby friends, her health care providers, and her brain tumor support system have been there for everything. They’re re-defining the concept of “heroic,” too, and many other things besides.

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The Book That Should Not Be

Despite being out of academia for several months now, I occasionally get invitations from academic book publishers to review book proposals and book manuscripts in ethics and political philosophy. Here’s a book proposal that somehow found its way to me:

Call “disease moralism” the thesis that disease outbreaks result from people’s moral failures. Disease moralism so defined need not mean that bad behavior magically causes disease, but rather than that morally bad behavior creates the conditions which spread disease. Moralism also usually includes moral prescriptions as solutions for the disease. …

Now we know many diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, or other microscopic infectious agents. But that does not mean moralism is behind us. Consider the moralism that accompanied the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s. And, of course, we see rampant moralism today regarding COVID-19. Many people say they would be ashamed to admit they were infected, as they expect to be judged and condemned. “Oh, you’re sick? Well, I guess you weren’t being careful. You probably spread it to others, too.”

Now we know. Continue reading

Atlas Mugged

Here’s an idea: let’s take two of the most crucial, stressful jobs out there, teaching and nursing, push their practitioners past their limits, then complain when they fail to deliver the impossible. By all means, let’s clap for them, call them “heroes,” give them gold stars for their performance, and then push the burden of their difficulties onto another overtaxed profession, mental health counseling. But let’s not question our sense of entitlement to make idle, arbitrary demands of them in the name of our “freedoms,” our “needs,” and our “rights” to their satisfaction. Continue reading